COLLABORATION

How people interact with technology could revolutionise workplace learning

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The UTA School of Psychology wants to enable a better understanding of both learning in digital environments and the personalised learning constructs needed by workers.

Technology in learning, and exactly how effective it can be, is a hot topic at the moment.

As technology and mobile devices infiltrate almost every aspect of our daily lives, the field of education is no exception. But with so much theory and conflicting studies out there, it’s difficult to determine the truth when it comes to how technology impacts learning and how exactly humans interact with technology, not just in the classroom, but beyond.

You’ve no doubt read or seen something espousing the dangers or merits of tech in learning, whether it’s that device use enhances learning outcomes. Or perhaps that screen time is not good for kids. Maybe you’ve read that screen time doesn’t impact adolescents’ well-being. Or, indeed, that screen time actually does affect teenagers’ well-being. Or that college students’ learning declines the more devices are present in their classrooms.

It can be confusing to know which to believe and decipher exactly how the introduction of technology impacts the learning of individuals, students, or, indeed, employees undertaking continued professional development.

The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), in partnership with The Boeing Company, is looking to better understand the field and develop useful tools for maximising the positive learning potential of technology on an individual basis.

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The latest project from the UTA School of Psychology aims to gain a better understanding of both learning in digital environments and the personalised learning constructs needed by workers.

Leading the research is UTA Professor of Psychology, George Siemens, who received the grant from Boeing to construct an integrated data infrastructure that will centralise digital learning and engagement tools.

“Technology is no longer something we just use. It has become something that thinks with us,” Siemens said in a statement on Tuesday.

“That changes almost all aspects of the learning system. We’re trying to understand what the impact of cognitive technology, or artificial intelligence, is on the human knowledge development process.”

Siemens hopes the research will determine how people interact with technology as an intellectual peer, capable of building knowledge and solving problems in both higher education and corporate environments.

Institutions taking part in the research include Indiana University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), whose students will be monitored to see if there are any learning patterns in how they engage with course material.

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But it is the utilisation of such valuable research within the workplace and corporate sector that has many excited.

With the employment market changing so rapidly these days and dire skills shortages hitting across a range of industries, lifelong learning and continued professional development are becoming an accepted part of an employer and an employee’s life.

Siemens sees this study as a way to improve the learning outcomes of these mature learners, whose needs are currently not met by the current system.

“The need for ongoing education in a work environment driven by technology is significant,” Siemens said.

“However, much of our standard university structure isn’t built for ongoing learning. We’re trying to recalibrate our university enterprise to better understand what employees require to learn so we can meet the needs of that population.”